I'm not really updating the site anymore but I thought I'd post a document I came across recently relating to Simeon Hester, former owner of much of today's Watts-Hillandale and the namesake of Hester Heights as featured in previous posts (1, 2, 3) and over at Endangered Durham.
Simeon Hester appears to have been born in 1837 in Oxford though the family most likely moved to Rougemount shortly afterward. Simeon joined the Orange Light Artillery (2nd co. G 40th NC Troops) towards the beggining of the Civil War. The Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections library at Duke holds copies of three letters relating to the Hester family of Rougemont (Adeline Hester Bowling papers). Simeon wrote the letter reproduced below while camped in Virginia with his regiment. The juxtaposition between his tender appreciation of a homemade cake and the disregard he shows the slave laborers building the very defenses he boasts of is jarring but not unexpected.
[From S.J. Hester to his Sister Addaline]
"Camp Near Drewry's Bluff Va
November the 20th 1862
Dear Sister it is with pleasure that I have the opportunity of answering your kind + most welcome letter which I received knight before last by the hand of Henry Bowling he reached here about dark + stayd with me all knight I was glad to got a letter from you + to hear that you was all Well. I am very much oblige to you for the Cake you sent me it was a very nice present + was very good it tased like home this leaves me well I hope this yo find you + father well + enjoying lifes Pleasures I have nothing interesting to write to you Times is quiet there is upwards of one thousand negroes camped in about one quarter of mile of us, they smell as strong as goats in flee time, they are throwing up Breastwork all over this whole country I think that thirty thousand men can keep one hundred thousand yankees at Bay, I hardly think they will ever attack this place any more, I am afraid they will make a strong attack on Weldon some time during Winter they tried to cross black water Day before yesterday + our forces succeded in stopping them + taking twelve prisoners they were brought to petersburg yesterday I was there though I did not see them Bartlet Bowles + Alexander Beasley was over there in the Hospille Bowles' wife was there with him she said she was going to start home in the morning, you wanted to know wheather McFarlin [?] had heard from his son he has not more than he has left Petersburg Lieutenant Dixon did not get him off, Dixon told me that father lost his pocket book at Hillsborough which I was very sorry to hear, he did not know how much money they was in it I hope they was not much, you must let me know when you wright I will bring this to close give my love to father + accept the same your self nothing only to remain your brother
Tell Father his neck tie is here"
Simeon and Adeline remained in North Carolina but their brother Davis moved to Texas where he wrote a glowing letter back to his siblings in 1870, extolling the richness of the soil and the openness of the land. He closed his letter by asking Simeon and Adeline if they were ready to move themselves. Simeon obviously chose not to, instead buying his massive 576 acre tract in Durham in 1873.